I’m always curious how the delicate fish oil is obtained? Fish oil is most talked about in supplement industry claiming to benefit hearing, arthritis, brain, autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, asthma, and even sex life – mainly due to its EPA & DHA content. With so many potential benefits claimed by even the health professionals, it is not surprising that many people rushes to pop fish oil capsules as their daily supplement regimen. Fish oil became the emerging ‘golden’ oil that has been overharvested to the point of concern. Many of those are not tested for EPA & DHA content for quality properly, I mean analytically to ensure the oil is not oxidized which can be harmful. A 2015 New Zealand published study showed that fish oil supplements from Australia and New Zealand are highly oxidized and do not meet the label content of Omega-3 fatty acid.
The research showed that most fish oil supplements from Australia and New Zealand are highly oxidized which exceeded recommended levels of oxidation markers. The precious EPA & DHA contents were compromised as a result; with up to 67% lesser content of EPA & DHA claimed by labels.
Fish oil produced is stored in large tanks before being shipped overseas for further refining. This refining process damages the delicate oil through repeated heating at high temperature before being deodorized to remove rancid odor and unpleasant taste. I would not want to take for sure this ‘highly processed’ supplement. This increase in oxidation may suggest the reduced efficacy of fish oil supplements in studies.
Why is fish oil oxidation a big deal?
Oxidation is like rusting effect on a car body which damages the integrity structure of a car body causing possible infiltration of water or ease of penetration from foreign objects and, thus endangering the person inside the car. Our cell membrane has a protective barrier that contains lipid soluble antioxidants like vitamin E and Glutathione GSH. When fish oil supplements oxidized due to heat, air or light, they generate free radicals (hydroperoxides) which react with other oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acid of the fish oil causing a chain reaction that rapidly turns the fish oil rancid and taste like ‘off’. The same radicals have the potential to cause ‘rusting’ effect or oxidation causing damage to your cell membrane. Ottestad and associates showed there is currently no concrete evidence that oxidized fish oil harms a healthy human subject in short term 3 – 7 weeks consumption.
Ensuring the freshness of delicate fish oil
As we know fish oil is susceptible to oxidation from air, heat, and light, it would be good to get a small bottle of concentrate fish oil or use the fish oil within 3 months. Keep the fish oil supplement in the bottle away from heat and light better and best if kept in a refrigerator not freezer, though. If possible, get fish oil supplements stored in non-transparent, tightly sealed bottle. If you get a big bottle that lasts more than 3 months, get a small air-tight non-transparent bottle to refill from the larger bottle. If you’re getting liquid fish oil, the oxidation may be more as the oils are not protected from oxidation by the capsule. Always smell the fish oil for any rancid smell or ‘off’ taste and discard then need to.
Fish oil supplements that have oil soluble antioxidants like vitamin E or Astaxanthin added would be a better choice as they slow down the oxidation process and improve its freshness.
There are tons of researches on fish oil supplements with mixed results, probably due to the inconsistency of the quality and content of fish oil used. Another option is to look into krill oil which has its own uniqueness.
What is your experience with fish oil consumption?